Wheel alignment

Saturday 13 May 2023

Flushed with success

I apologise in advance for the title which is an appalling pun, but please bear with me as I'm in engineering heaven!  Sonja, your husband will fully understand!

MGB 60th anniversary meeting, Auckland 2022

Since purchasing the MGB GT just short of 2 years ago, the emphasis has been on setting up a planned maintenance schedule.  The previous owner was meticulous in keeping records of the restoration in 2017/18, but there was no record of subsequent maintenance.  To a professional engineer this was sacrilege (cue eye-rolling and sighing from Jennie).  Besides, record-keeping for a classic car is an essential part of sales strategy should we ever wish to sell it.  An Excel spreadsheet was duly set up to track expenditure and maintenance activity. (More eye-rolling and sighing).

Everything is pretty much up to date now with just a couple of small(ish) jobs scheduled before Spring with another having been ticked off the list this week.  Let me introduce you to the murky world of the cooling system.  Most modern car and bike owners don't give the cooling system a second thought, apart from occasionally looking at the level in the radiator or overflow bottle.  With classic cars, the cooling system requires rather more attention.  In our climate, antifreeze properties of coolant aren't an issue but a good glycol-based coolant raises the boiling point which can be helpful in adverse conditions. Of most interest to protect our investment is the anti-corrosion property, particularly with a cast iron engine.

Early on in the ownership, I drained the existing coolant which was rust-coloured and with a small amount of sludge in the radiator.  No flushing or anything at that stage, just refilled it with some Prestone premix which was on special locally.  I figured that it would give better protection whilst some of the other priorities were attended to.  Fast forward to the current time. I was ready to do a thorough job and saw an article on a Castrol coolant called 4Life.  The interesting bit in the article was that it offered superior corrosion protection than cheaper alternatives over a longer period.  Another interesting feature is that it detects head gasket leaks by changing colour!  Product duly purchased, along with a flushing agent to do a proper job.

Castrol 4Life long lasting coolant, plus coolant flush

Take the car for a short drive to warm the old coolant up, then drain it.  Still a bright fluorescent green, it was in good order with relatively little rust contamination, just a bit cloudy.

Old coolant.  Still in good order, at least visually

Next step was to refill the system with filtered rainwater, adding Penrite radiator flush and then heading out for a 20 minute drive to circulate it.

Adding radiator flush - good for up to 15 litres of coolant

The radiator flush clearly did its intended job on the cooling system with quite a bit of discolouration in the drained coolant.  The surprise was that it was still quite green, indicating that there was quite a bit of old fluid lurking in the nooks and crannies of the engine, radiator, heater and pipework.  Shining a torch inside the radiator filler cap showed a nice clean radiator core - result!  Two more repeats until the water ran clear, taking temperature readings with a heat gun to make sure that nothing untoward was happening. I call it an essential tool.  Jennie calls it "just another toy", sigh.....  Cool to see the red laser aiming dots shown in the photo though.

All good, temperature-wise

With the flushing water in the cooling system now running clear, it was time to fill up with the premixed 4Life coolant which looks like translucent cherryade.  A straightforward job, take it out for a run, check for leaks and job done.  The engine has never run hot and the new coolant seems pretty much the same as the old one in that respect. However, by thoroughly cleaning the system this time before adding new coolant, it's something which should now be fine for many years.  Half a day well spent.

Adding the new coolant

Just to prove that I'm not a complete automotive tragic, another little project is underway.  A few years ago, we had stained glass windows made for our upstairs lounge by a neighbour who was a real renaissance man when it came to anything arty.  The high level windows depicted scenes based on where we live - the Coromandel Peninsula.

Stained glass windows - upstairs lounge

We also have a tapered high level window in one of our bedrooms which is a pain to clean and near-impossible to curtain.  A stained glass insert would be a perfect decorative solution.  Based on a photo I took in the garden of a Tui nectar-eating bird on one of our plants, a preliminary computer sketch was generated to see how it would translate.  Pretty good as it happens.

The original photo of a Tui in the garden

Mock-up of stained glass window based on the photo (about 0.75 metre square)

The Tui will be in iridescent blues and green on the real thing.  Sadly, our neighbour has since passed but we found another craftsman on the Peninsula who will make it for us.  Inevitably, his skills are in great demand so we have to join the queue for his services.

Plenty of variety to keep me occupied in retirement!


  1. Geoff, first of all, picture me eye-rolling and sighing alongside with Jennie ;-) By the way I really love the stained glass windows. Those extras are the clear advantages when owning a house. Our apartment does not allow such modification due to building standards... ah well. Hope it doesn't take too long for the Tui to arrive. Cheers SonjaM

    1. Hi Sonja!
      Haha - only to be expected! I polished the tops of the carburetors yesterday to make them nice and shiny 😄. Thank you, we've always loved stained glass and it's lovely to keep the craft alive. The Coromandel Peninsula is a Mecca for artisans of all kinds. Great to support them.

  2. Show me the spreadsheet ;) I'm currently running 6...

    Red coolant just doesn't sound right...

    1. Good man! I only have one for the car, but several tabs. I also have one for my mountain biking - time, distance, elevation during ride....... Complete with graphs - how sad is that? 🙄. Agree with coolant colour. I guess the colour is to make a marketing difference compared with the greens and blues. Does look weird though. It gets some really good reviews for both the road and track.


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